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Cheap Charmers of the SF Bay Area Burger Scene

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Wherein we tap Broke-Ass Stuart senior editor Christy Jovanelly to walk us through the cheap charmers of the Bay Area burger scene.


It would be irresponsible—nay, tragic—to celebrate Burger Week without a roundup of the tastiest burgers that won’t cause your rent check to bounce, yet still have street cred that even the most refined foodoscenti can appreciate. All of the burgers mentioned below cost less than $10.50 apiece—most much less, in fact...even including fries. They are also—rest assured—really, REALLY delicious.

The Mission is home to some of the best burgers in the city, and Whiz Burgers Drive-In is no exception. Since 1955, Whiz has been serving up classic-style burgers that have a widespread appeal, not only because of the charming retro feel of the walk-up counter, but also because the buns come out warm, the patties are grilled to greasy perfection, and the prices are insanely low.

Urbun Burger on Valencia may be open until 3:00 a.m. on weekends, but you need not be closing down the local bars to enjoy their various ½ pound specialty burgers featuring hormone-free Angus beef, like the Mission Heat (sautéed green chilies, grilled onions, jalapeño jack cheese, fresh jalapeño and chipotle aioli) and the Cubano Burger (grilled ham, Swiss cheese, and special Urbun sauce).

If you’re feeling nostalgic for your dad’s backyard BBQs, head to Zeitgeist for the perfect cheeseburger to quell your craving -- and the perfect patio on which to devour it. Their simple, yet hearty right-off-the-grill burger is divine with a pitcher of Damnation -- as long you’re polite when ordering and don’t forget to tip the explicitly blasé cooks.

The exterior of Double Decker in Hayes Valley may not look like much (it is, after all, attached to a Days Inn), but the consistently delicious fare keeps the two-story eatery crowded. Many customers initially drop in for the famous Wednesday night all-you-can-eat wings, but the towering Double Decker burger, with its two patties and combo of swiss and cheddar cheese, is what keeps them coming back.

In Lower Haight, the unassuming KK Cafe is the clear winner of best bacon cheeseburger in the neighborhood, pleasing the masses with slightly smoky flavoring and wonderfully crispy bacon strips. In addition, KK’s unique, deep-fried veggie burgers have acquired a kind of cult following among the non-carnivorous folk.

Over in the Avenues, Buffalo Burgers is the go-to for cheap, savory patties. Regulars know not to be put off by the cashier charging around the counter wielding his flyswatter; the beefy, stacked burgers more than make up for it. The Ultimate Burger (bacon, avocado, grilled onions and three kinds of cheese on a toasted roll) is of particular delicious note.

Lastly, Pearl’s Deluxe Burgers in the Tenderloin is an oft-lauded burger joint that shows no outward signs of its popularity, keeping prices for all food items, including The Bomb (open-faced burger with homemade chili, cheddar cheese, and diced red onions), low and percentages of satisfied stomachs high.

So, dear readers, while it would be ridiculous to try and negate the obvious delectability of burgers found at such establishments as Marlowe and Wayfare Tavern, it would be equally silly to assume that price alone is an indicator of gratification. With that said, go forth, $20 bill in pocket, and experiment with some of San Francisco’s best burgers on the cheap!

And as always, do fill us in if there's another cheap charmer that's won you over. That's what Comments sections are made for.

Whiz Burgers Drive-In. [Photo: Laughing Squid]

Whiz Burgers Drive-In

700 South Van Ness Avenue San Francisco, CA